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The Story of the 
Yale University Press 
told by 




OUR purchase of "The Chronicles of America" was a great event 
in the history of the Yale University Press. That cannot mean much 
if anything to you, however, unless you know enough about the 
personality of the Press to make you care about its history. 

It has a very real personality and is as capable of hopes and ideals 
and disappointments, mistakes and regrets and triumphs, too, as 
any human being; which is but natural, since it is made up of 
luman beings who are all passionately interested in its life and in its achievements. 

Perhaps the chief reason for their devotion is that they all know that they are coop- 
erating in producing something which is intrinsically valuable; and that, although all 
must earn wages or salaries, no one is working for profits. There are no profits, for when- 
ever one book succeeds financially it simply helps to pay for another which, although 
commercially unprofitable, may nevertheless be potentially as real a gain for the world 
as the plays of Shakespeare or the Psalms of David. 

So we hope that you will always think of the Press as a great adventure in which you 
have had a share. We hope too that you will feel as interested in its continued success 
as you would be in the safe landfall of a ship which you had helped to build to carry 
precious merchandise to new worlds. 

How the ship was planned and something of its early voyages will be found in "The 
Story of the Yale University Press Told by a Friend." A copy of this we are sending to 
you with our compliments, together with this foreword to let you know that it is neither 
a catalogue nor an appeal. We trust then that it will receive your personal attention 
when it arrives, if only because it is a very beautifiil example of the printer's art. It 
may add to your interest to know that the pamphlet was printed from hand-set type in 
our own new printing oflice, the Earl Trumbull Williams Memorial, which we hope 
that you may some day visit. 

The type used is known as Garamond, taking its name from the famous sixteenth 
century Frenchman, "the father of letter founders." The Yale University Press was one 
of the first American houses to secure fonts of it. Curiously enough, in spite of its ex- 
traordinary beauty, Garamond is not even now available in over a dozen of the com- 
posing rooms of the United States. 


New Year's Day, 1921. 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2015 

The Earl Trumhull Williams MemoriaL 




New Haven: 
At the Earl Trumbull Williams Memorial. 





TTN 1908 several people began talking together 
about starting a publishing organization in con- 
nection with Yale. The more they thought of the 
J-L possibilities in it the more interested they grew. 
They saw what a power a great publishing-house might 
become. To build up a "Yale University Press" seemed 
an exciting adventure, when they thought of all it might 
do for letters, and for scholars and scholarship. . . . 

But when they tried to carry out their plans, in hard 
actuality, they had to begin pretty small. The first quar- 
ters of the new Press were a pigeonhole in a busy man's 
desk, and this desk was in a busy office downtown in 

Yale New York: one that had nothing to do with books, 
University ^-j^^^^p^ account-books, and grudged the Press even a 
pigeonhole. So the Press moved after a while to a 
building near Washington Square. There it had a 
whole room. It was only a little black cave of a room, 
but it was a great advance on one pigeonhole. The 
busy man who had started the Press couldn't go up 
there often; he had to stay down in his office: but one 
of his family went and sat there. And she kept a record 
of all the Press's work, in a ridiculous book, four by 
seven, with a thin cover that looked like butchers' pa- 
per. This was the cashbook, ledger, order-book, ship- 
ping-book, and general record, combined. She rushed 
down each morning to see if the postman had shoved 
any mail through the slot in the door; and when some 
of it was orders she had to telephone downtown at 
once to announce them, because orders make you hap- 
py when you are starting a publishing business. One 
morning there was a splendid order for thirty-one 
books, and it took her all day to get them tied up and 
sent off and billed for. 


Nowadays the main offices are in New Haven in a Yale 
big old house on the Green; * and there is a branch be- ^"^^^'^^"^y 
sides, in New York (which is well worth a visit) and 
I don't know just how many hundred books it would 
take to be a large order, now. 


The world of books is the most remarkable creation 
of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monu- 
ments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and 
die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build 
others. But in the world of books are volumes that 
have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, 
still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, 
still telling men's hearts of the hearts of men centu- 
ries dead. 

And even the books that do not last long, penetrate 

*This house formerly belonged to Governor Ingersoll, of Con- 
necticut, and was built about 1830. It was purchased as a home for the 
Press, in 1919, by Mrs. Harriet T. Williams, in memory of her son, 
Lieutenant Earl Trumbull Williams. 


Yale their own times at least, sailing farther than Ulysses even 
University ^^j^^ J q£^ [[^^ ships on the seas. It is the author's part 

Press, ... 

to call into being their cargoes and passengers, — liv- 
ing thoughts and rich bales of study and jeweled ideas. 
And as for the publishers, it is they who build the fleet, 
plan the voyage, and sail on, facing wreck, till they find 
every possible harbor that will value their burden. 

Any great university might well be proud to go in- 
to publishing. Indeed it is more appropriate for uni- 
versities to do it than business men. 


The publisher who thinks of himself as a builder of 
ships, will naturally care about designing and building 
them well. The types and the paper and the bindings 
must be stately and strong — or have whatever charac- 
teristics suit the contents and life of each volume. But the 
Yale University Press has had no plant of its own. Each 

time that it publishes a book it must farm out this work. 


Through the aid of the master printers who work for 
it, it has produced handsome books; but it has needed 
at least a little press, to try out types and styles. And it 
has wanted much more. It has wanted presses enough 
and a bindery to make its own books: a place where 
men could work and experiment in the old craftsman 

In most printing- and publishing-houses it is neces- 
sary to put money first, and to plan as a rule to 
make the most profits — not the best books. But print- 
ing is more than a business: it is an art or a craft; and 
it should not be learned only in establishments that are 
conducted for profit. To be sure, a man can get a good 
business-training in such an establishment: he can also 
get a standardized training as a practical printer, and in 
some places he can even become pretty good at the art: 
but the latter is subordinate, necessarily, in a commer- 
cial establishment. And there ought to be more print- 
ing-houses in the world where it isn't. Printing-houses 
where beauty of workmanship and design would come 
first, and where the object would be to make each book 

Yale perfect if possible. Not books de luxe only, but every 

University ]^[^^^ ^^^^^ 

Such a place should be run partly as any business 
concern should be run, because efficiency, system, and 
new ways to check waste, repay study: and partly as a 
laboratory and training-school for young master print- 
ers: a school where all kinds of experiments can be 
thought out and tried. 

Under the will of Earl Trumbull Williams the Press 
has now received a bequest which has enabled it to in- 
stall the beginnings of a plant of this kind. But any fur- 
ther development must depend upon what other men 
do in helping the Press to go ahead; and meantime 
things must wait. If the Press were to beg urgently 
enough for it, help might come now, but the help 
that comes reluctantly or as a charity is not the best 
kind. The best kind, of course, is that which comes 
from men who care what it means, and who like to be 
builders of something that is really worth while, and 
who will enjoy watching their work grow, and get some 
fun out of giving. 


The Princeton University Press has a beautiful plant, 
which was given it by Mr. Charles Scribner in this kind 
of spirit. At this plant the Princeton Almnni Weekly is 
printed and some of the undergraduate periodicals. 
When Yale can have a place like that, the undergrad- 
uates who are interested in pressrooms can come 
around and learn how to print a paper as well as to 
publish it. Why should Yale's youthful editors and 
reporters have so much chance to practice, while the 
artist printers that Yale might be training have no 
chance at all? The right kind of printing helps as much 
to make the written word carry, as the right kind of 
voice helps the spoken word. 

It would be a good thing if every man who writes 
knew a little of printing. An author who did would 
know how to prepare his manuscripts properly, which 
is something that not one in a hundred has sufficient 
idea of; and that would save making great numbers 
of needless corrections. These avoidable wastes, all of 
which, of course, add to the cost, are stupidities that 

civilized printers should try to eliminate. 



There are a number of other useful things that the Press 
wants to do. Sometimes, for instance, a highly trained 
man appears, hot on the trail of some research, the re- 
sults of which would be of wide interest to the world, 
and of value, but which he can do little or no work 
on, because he must earn his living. If the Press had 
the funds, it would first make sure his work had great 
worth, and then it could advance such a man enough 
money to live on — economically it goes without saying 
— until he completed his task. To be able to step in 
and do that, and then publish the book, would be 
one of those services to mankind that are best worth 
performing. And think of the difference that this help 
would make in the career of that man: how much soon- 
er he would be advanced to the rank where his brains 
could do most, and how much more fruitful to all of 
us his life would thus be. 

Even small sums of money might accomplish large 
results in this way. And large sums could sometimes 
be used with tremendous effect. The fact that the Press 


is surrounded by such expert advisers, — the men on 
Yale's faculties and others, — should ensure wise ex- 



I was saying to myself the other day, "What is Yale, 
after all?" A spectator might describe it as a place where 
young men go, each year; and where older men teach 
them, and die; and where others replace them. But 
Yale isn't just a place nor those men. It's much more 
— or it's nothing. 

When any good Yale man tries to answer a question 
like that, he is swayed by old memories and old feelings, 
and they sometimes go deep. So in order to cut out any 
emotion that is not wholly impartial, let us ask the 
same question about other places: What is Harvard, or 

Well, any institution that a lot of men have worked 
for, and loved, becomes a living force: that is about the 
only answer I know. What kind of a living force it is 


Yale depends on the way it affects those around it. And that 
University ^^^^ depends on the kind of love men have put into it. 


The various orders of knighthood in the era of 
chivalry, the monasteries that ardent young priests 
joined — they were all living forces. Famous regiments 
like the Black Watch of Scotland, or Napoleon's Old 
Guard — every man who joined one of them felt he 
was more of a man. 

This has been true of Yale. 

These intangible, stirring inspirations come into ex- 
istence, only when men have given themselves, con- 
sciously or not, to the making of them. Then — what 
strength they exert! 

In the old Saybrook days, it was when those minis- 
ters came and gave books, that the thing that we call 
Yale was born. Their gifts and the spirit behind them, 
and their willingness to work for the place, and their 
faith in the good it would do — thatW2iS what gave it 
life. Yale was only a small force at first. It is a mighty 
one now. 

And the Yale University Press was conceived in this 


r ■ ' ■ 


' VI. Yale 

I don't suppose, when Yale started, it seemed to the University 


neighbors supremely worth helping. It was only a little 
collegiate school, in a small country town. But if you 
and I had been living then, and could have foreseen 
what Yale was to be, it would certainly have roused us 
to get out and work hard to strengthen her. We should 
have felt that one of the best and finest uses we could 
make of our lives would be to do anything we could to 
build up such a place. 

It is the Yale University Press that is now in that 
stage. It has greatness ahead of it, much more great- 
ness than we dream of perhaps. But today it is young. 
A few men are putting their hearts into it, a few more 
their gifts, or their interest and good will. It is grow- 
ing. It will all be worth while. . . . 


Printed at the Yale University Press by 
Carl Purington Rollins, Printer to the University,